Why it matters to you
If you’re Google Home Mini is behaving strangely, make sure to look into this fix.
We place an awful lot of trust in our smart home hubs and speakers, allowing them to live in our living rooms, our bedrooms, and even our bathrooms. But we may want to think twice about this blind acceptance following a rather bizarre incident involving one of the new Google Home Mini devices debuted at the tech giant’s October 4 event and Android Police writer Artem Russakovskii. Per Russakovskii’s report, a rogue Mini “spied on everything [he] said,” and transmitted much of this information to Google, too.
Apparently, the Mini allows for hot-word activation through a long press on the touch panel. This feature allows folks to activate Google Assistant without actually saying the hot word “Hey Google.” However, on some Minis, the devices registered “phantom” touch events, which meant that Google Assistant was always on.
On Wednesday Google announced that it has permanently disabled the feature in response to the incident.
“We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini,” A Google spokesperson said. “We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google,” which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.”
Russakovskii realized that something was wrong when his Mini was being triggered by seemingly nothing at all, turning on intermittently and attempting to control various aspects of his home. And while this was initially nothing more than an (albeit serious) nuisance, it soon became clear that something slightly more insidious was taking place — namely that the device was recording “almost every minute of every day and [storing] it remotely.”
Google apparently sent someone to rectify the matter immediately. After assessing the situation, Google announced that it was rolling out a software update to address the issue. Later in the day it announced that the top-touch feature would be discontinued.